What are the rights of women in Islam? How do you answer the claims that Islam puts pressure and limitations on women?

The Details of the Question

What are the rights of women in Islam? How do you answer the claims that Islam puts pressure and limitations on women?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In the periods before Islam, women were not regarded as humans. The religion of Islam elevated women to the rank where they needed to be. Freedom does not mean to be able to live as the soul of a person and Satan want. On the contrary, it means to live as the Creator wishes. For, a person who does not obey the wish of Allah obeys the wish of his soul and Satan. 

Let us explain the general rights of women briefly:

"When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief..." (an-Nahl, 16/58 )

In the verse above, Allah explains how the people of Jahiliyyah regarded women. However, the following is stated in the Quran:  

"He creates what He wills (and plans). He bestows (children) male or female according to His Will (and Plan)." (ash-Shura, 42/49)

A woman is born just like a man; she is also a baby like a male child. Parents will be held responsible if they discriminate between them when they show them compassion and when they give them presents; they will also be regarded to have ignored the advice and will of the Prophet and they will be deprived of the intercession of the Prophet. Knowing that the feelings of Jahiliyyah would relapse from time to time, the Prophet (pbuh) emphasized the importance of the education of girls as follows:

"A father who raises three, two or even one daughter will be together with me in Paradise." (Ibn Majah, Adab 3)

When a girl is born, an animal (aqiqa) is sacrificed as a sign of thanking just like when a boy is born.  She has to be given a nice name and she has to be educated by her mother. She has to receive her sexual education from her mother. No verse or or hadith that encourages science and knowledge excludes women. On the contrary, the Prophet (pbuh) advised the education of especially women and ordered men to protect their rights. Mujtahid women were raised in his period. (For instance, Aisha, the wife of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is one of them.)

A woman is raised without any discrimination and when she becomes old enough to get married, it is her right and a sunnah to see the candidate who wants to marry her. If she does not like the candidate, she has the right to reject him; the insistence of her parents, guardians or the candidate will not change anything. 

When she decides to get married, she can insist on receiving as much mahr as she wants. Mahr is her natural right and life guarantee determined by Allah. She can spend it however she likes as long as it is legitimate. She can spend her mahr and other property on charity or on business; she can establish companies, buy shares, etc; she can earn money and spend the money she earns however she wishes. All of the expenses for the house and the woman have to be met by the man. The man has no right to say to her, "Buy your ornaments, clothes and cosmetics yourself". He has to provide her sustenance based on his income. If the man cannot meet her expenses after marriage, the woman's demand of a divorce will be accepted.

Her husband cannot humiliate her; he should not forget that she is his partner. He cannot get angry with her and leave her alone at home.

"The best man is the one that treats women in the best way." (see Bukhari, Nikah 43; Muslim, Fadail 68)

To joke, to have fun and to entertain one's wife are among the duties of the husband.

A man cannot beat his wife unless she rebels, violating law. (See verse 34 of the chapter of an-Nisa and its interpretations regarding beating women. For instance, see Ibn Kathir IV/257; Qurtubi VI/170,172,173; Elmalı IV/1351; Abu Dawud, Manasik 56; Ibn Majah, Manasik 84; Muslim, Hajj 147; Tirmidhi, Rada'11; Abu Dawud, Manasik 56; Halabi Saghir p. 395; Halabi Kabir p. 621; Canan, Terbiye p. 391;) A man cannot disturb his wife through sudden arrivals originating from his jealousy.

In a hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) prohibited a man who was away from home for a long time from returning home suddenly at night. One of the reasons for this is to give time to the woman to shave her armpit and pubic hair and to make up and to comb her hair. The hadith regarding the issue is as follows:

"When you return home at night, do not go to her directly; let her shave and comb her hair." (Bukhari, Nikah 121,122; Muslim, Rada' 58, Imarah 181,182; Darimi, Nikah 32, Jihad 163; Musnad NI/298)

The scholars who explain the hadith state that coming home suddenly at home might mean that the man suspects his wife.

- The husband also has the duty of satisfying his wife sexually. The Prophet (pbuh) likened the man who ended sexual intercourse very quickly when he ejaculated to roosters, that is, to animals. He also advised people not to start sexual intercourse without patting and caressing the women. (From Daylami, Ghazzali, Ihya N/52 (Trnsl. N/129); see also Suyuti, al Jamiu's-Saghir (with Fathu'I-Qadir) VI/323) For, a man can be aroused at once by looking but a woman becomes ready for sexual intercourse after a long period of caressing. A good man is a person who manages to prepare his wife for the intercourse and makes her satisfied as he himself is satisfied. The men who think of only themselves during sexual intercourse should not forget that they oppress the women and that they take pleasure by torturing their wives.

- The woman has the right to divorce from a man who cannot have a sexual intercourse with her in the period one year after the marriage.

The woman has the right not to accept sexual intercourse before receiving her “prompt mahr.”

- The sustenance of the woman, her treatment and medication have to be met by the man. If the woman cannot bake bread, her husband has to buy bread. If the woman wants to make up, the man has to pay for the accessories and perfume. The husband has to buy two dresses or two-piece suits every year, one being for the summer and the other for the winter. If a disagreement occurs, the quality of the garments is determined by the local authorities. The woman can demand sustenance when her husband goes on an expedition for the days he is absent. If she wants, she can demand a separate bed to sleep on when she is menstruating. 

- She can ask for a servant based on the situation of her husband. The wage of the servant has to be paid by the husband. The woman does not have to do any housework except the housework that is traditionally done by housewives in that region. 

If she needs, she can agree on certain amount of sustenance with her husband. If that amount turns out to be insufficient, she can want it to be increased; if her husband does not agree, she can apply to the court. 

- If the woman does not want the relatives of her husband, the husband has to hire or buy a separate house for her. The reason for this decree is the fact that they will prevent her from joking and from having sexual intercourse with her husband. Furthermore, the woman has the right to demand a separate room if she has children except for very little children who are not aware of sexual intercourse.

- The woman has the right to visit her parents once a week; the husband cannot prevent it.

The woman has the right to work in legitimate business that does not harm the rights of her husband.

If the woman wants to go to a public bath after menstruation and puerperium, her husband has to pay for the public bath; however, if it is known that the woman does not cover her parts of the body that need to be covered in the public bath, she is not sent to the public bath.

The husband has to provide sustenance for his wife that he divorced revocably or irrevocably during the period of iddah.

What we have mentioned up to now are some of the examples mentioned in fiqh books on the rights of women over men. They are not advice but legal rights that have sanctions. If women are forced to work and do the hard work that only men can do in some places, it is not the fault of Islam but the fault of those who live contrarily to Islam.

- Most of the Islamic scholars state that the woman has the right to vote when there is an election. For, there is no evidence stating that they have no such rights. Besides, election means paying allegiance. The Prophet (pbuh) accepted allegiance from women. (see al-Mumtahina (60) verse 12 and its interpretations) The view of everybody including young girls was asked for the caliph to be elected after Hz. Umar (ra). [see Muhammed Hamidullah, Islam Müesseselerine Giriş Ist.1981, p. 112 (reported from Ibn Kathir)]

When the woman dies, her shroud has to be bought by her husband.

(For more detailed information of the items presented in summary above, see Ibn Abidin, Raddu'l-Muhtar, Egypt 1380 (1960) NI/571 etc. See also nafaqa parts of all fiqh books, especially Sarakhsi, Mabsut V/180, etc.)

As it s seen, a woman is a person who has no worries and concerns about sustenance; that is, she has full social security. They are all legal rights to be determined by the court when a disagreement arises. In Islam, the husband and wife are not two enemies that always try to get rights from one another. They are two halves of a whole that complement, help and support each other; for instance, the Prophet (pbuh) helped his wives with housework; Hz. Ali (ra) and his wife Fatima (ra) worked in cooperation.


Islam states that the man and the woman were created equally:

"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female..." (al-Hujurat, 49/13).

Islam also states that it does not discriminate between man and woman and that they are not superior to each other in birth, death and life after death. For, man will stand and be reckoned in the presence of Allah alone.  (Maryam, 19/93) The state of the believing women who do righteous deeds and never leave the way of Allah is mentioned as follows: "Whoever works righteousness, man or woman and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions."  (an-Nahl, 16/97).

The difference between man and woman originates from their bodies; it is stated that women are weak and delicate beings. Therefore, differences are seen in their functions in individual and social life; it is seen that women are protected there. Islam did not push women down as it was the case in Jahiliyya life beliefs; it did not make women dominant either as it is the case with matriarchal families. Islam has introduced such a family model that every member of the family has different duties and there is no injustice in those duties. Islam adopted a family model that launched a new era, eliminating all of the attitudes that could put pressure on women in the family and that could harm the family.

Islam gives the duty of being the head of the family to the man.

"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means..." (an-Nisa, 4/34).

Allah states the following in another verse giving the duty of being the head of the family to the man:

"...(And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise." (al-Baqara, 2/28)

The man has to meet all of the needs of the family and to protect the family from all kinds of external effects; he has very important responsibilities. The man cannot interfere with the personal property of the woman in the family; he cannot lay a burden on her. Furthermore, if the woman does not want to look after her baby, she can ask a maid from her husband; she does not have to do housework, either. However, household duties and responsibilities like that are the indications of the taqwa of women; therefore, they are encouraged by the Prophet (pbuh). The woman is supposed to obey the legitimate order of her husband. (Abu Dawud, Nikah, 40).

The continuation of Islamic family life is possible only through preserving mutual rights.

"You have some rights over women and women have some rights over you." (Tirmidhi, Rada, 11).

What is meant by the surrendering and obedience in mutual rights for the woman is to fulfill her duties toward her husband legitimately.


Since the man is obliged to put bread on the table, he has to meet the material needs of the woman and do it legitimately. (an-Nisa, 4/34). The man has to treat the woman well and protect her rights:

"...on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them, it may be that ye dislike a thing and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good. " (an-Nisa, 4/19).

Islam prohibits man from misusing "the authority of managing and leading the family". What is meant here is to maintain the order in the family. Therefore, it is not permissible for the man to use this privilege by oppressing the woman. Only through this principle can the relationships between the man and the woman continue normally.

Islam lets women use their abilities and efficiency in terms of social relations maximally and within legitimate boundaries. In this social framework, Islam lets women work, take part in activities and study in order to help Muslims. (Bukhari, Ilm, 36;Ibrahim Jamal, Müslüman Kadının Fıkıh Kitabı, trnsl by Beşir Eryarsoy, İstanbul 1987, p. 483, ff)

"A woman is like a rib. If you try to straighten it, it will break. If you want to be happy, leave it as it is." (Bukhari, Nikah, 79).

"The best of you is the one that treats his wife in the best way." (Tirmidhi, Rada, 11; Ibn Majah, Nikah, 50).

We learn from the hadiths above that the Prophet (pbuh) always warned Muslims about women and that advised people to get on well with them. Women should not be beaten; they should be given advice. However, if they rebel, disobey their husbands, sit together with non-mahram men, waste the property of men and reveal the secrets of the family, they are admonished first; then, they are rebuked severely; if there is no change, they can be beaten slightly to warn. (an-Nisa, 4/34). If beating slightly causes no change, they should not be beaten severely.


"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard... " (an-Nisa, 4/34).

Women should obey and show respect to their husbands so that their husbands would carry out their duties at home properly. The woman has to obey her husband regarding legitimate issues. Besides, the housework she does and looking after children will increase the taqwa of the woman. For, Islam did not render them obligatory for women; it encouraged women to do them so that they would attain the consent of Allah.

Men are superior to women because of having some natural qualities and powers that women lack. However, it does not mean that men are superior in terms of honor and virtue. (Mawdudi, Tafhimu'l Qur'an, I, İstanbul 1986, p. 317, 318).

"If a woman performs five daily prayers, fasts for a month in Ramadan, protects her chastity and obeys her husband, doors of Paradise will be opened for her." (Bukhari, Misqat, II/202).

However, the obedience mentioned in the hadith is related to the issues that are in compliance with the orders of Allah; if the husband wants something that is contrary to the orders of Allah, she does not have to obey him.  For, obedience to Allah is superior to obedience to the husband. 

Satisfying each other sexually is something that is necessary in the family; therefore, it is not appropriate for either party to ignore it. The woman should be aware of this fact and should show respect to her husband regarding the issue. Islam states that men and women are equal in terms of creation. There is no difference regarding worldly punishments in the equality of women and men. The punishment for the crimes committed against men and women are the same. The fact that a woman receives half share in inheritance compared to a man is not something humiliating or inequality. When it is taken into consideration that the husband has to look after the wife, that he has to meet her needs, that the woman's parents or guardian have to look after her and meet her needs before marriage and that her husband has to do them after marriage, it is clearly understood what Allah means by this decree.   

The woman does not have to give anything to the man from the inheritance that she receives if she does not want to do so. However, man has to meet her needs. Thus, it is possible for the woman to receive the inheritance but not to spend it. (Ibrahim Jamal, ibid p. 485).

Allah created the woman as the hostess of the house. The man is obliged to earn money for the family; the woman is obliged to spend the money properly for the household. For, the woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband. Islam does not regard the woman responsible for any other things. The Quran encourages the woman to stay at home with the following verse:

"And stay quietly in your houses..." (al-Ahzab, 33/33)

However, in some cases, she can go out. For instance, if there is no man to look after the household, if she has to work due to financial difficulties, if the man cannot earn enough money, if the man is ill and cannot work, etc, the woman can go out and work.   

"Allah allows women to go out to meet their needs." (Bukhari-Muslim).

However, when the conditions of life today are considered, a Muslim woman cannot protect herself from the eyes of evil men in the market, streets and business life no matter how careful she is. Therefore, women should keep away from streets even if she has financial difficulties.

Islam gives women duties at home and eliminates the need for working. Islam will save the spirit of man who is betrayed in war and peace.


- Seyyid Kutub, İslâm Kapitalizm Çatışması, İstanbul 1988, p. 129;
- Said Havva, Islam, trnsl by Said Şimşek, Ankara nd., p. 197, ff;
- Mustafa Sibai, Kadının Yeri, İstanbul 1988, p. 57 ff.;
- Abdullah Nasuh Ulvan, İslâmda Aile Eğitimi, I, p. 221 ff.;
- Ömer Ferruh, İslâm Aile Hukuku trnsl by Yusuf Ziya Kavakcı, İstanbul 1976, p. 228 ff;
- Hz. Peygamber ve Aile Hayatı, Komisyon, İstanbul 1989, p. 171 ff;
- M. Ali Haşimi, Kur'an ve Sünnette Müslüman Şahsiyeti, trnsl by Resul Tosun, İstanbul 1988, p. 63 ff.
  (Şamil İslam Ans, Kadın item)

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